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Women's Final Four – For UConn, Déjà Vu hurts a bit more



COLUMBUS, Ohio – UConn Seniors Gabby Williams and Kia Nurse embraced in the hallway of the Nationwide Arena on Friday. And for the second year in a row, they did not play in the national championship game.

Could it really have happened again? An over-time loss in the national semi-final, thanks to a big shot from an opposing guard? Yes, it really worked.

Just like in 201

7, the huskies' only defeat came in the women's Final Four all season. This program was on a record of 19 of those, 11 in a row. The Huskies have never lost an NCAA final; They are 11-0 in those. But the semi-final was the round she got for the eighth time.

Last year it was Morgan William of Mississippi State who beat her at the overtime buzzer. This year it was Arrey Ogunbowale of Notre Dame who swooped a jump with a second lead for a 91-89 overtime victory.

Last season's Bulldogs ended UCONN's 111-game winning streak. This year, the Irish ended a winning streak of 36 games. In both years, the Huskies were the number one and a strong favorite to win the championship. Both years went into the program's seventh perfect season, but were missed out.

For the second consecutive year, UConn's perfect season ended with a last-second jumper in overtime for the women's Final Four. Andrew Hancock for ESPN

Consider 13 days ago, when UConn opened the tournament with a 140-52 victory over St. Francis (Pennsylvania) No. 16, that there were the typical "huskies" are unbeatable and bad for sports "claptrap from the Peanut Gallery, which does not really watch women's basketball.

But for the second year in a row, the huskies have turned out to be beatable.

" When you do something, and it seems like whether it is so effortless, you will become numb and forget. It's tough. It's very, very difficult, "said UConn coach Geno Auriemma." There are no bad teams. There are no bad players. You can not be lucky in a national championship. You've got to play great. "

It's certainly not the case that the Huskies played badly on Friday, but there were some cracks in the armor, and that was not really the case when they had four NCAAs between 2013 and 2016. Titles in a row behind Breanna Stewart The track, which added to all the other Huskies stories, made UConn look like an even bigger Goliath.

"It's tough if you basically rooted the whole world against you, except Your UConn support group, "Huskies Kati Lou Samuelson said," but you can not complain, because that's what you signed up for. So we knew we would come in here. We've all accepted that. "

Samuelson, the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year, has not actually played in a national championship game, a rare thing for any UConn junior, she got injured in the semifinals of her 2016 freshman season In the final of the Huskies against Syracuse did not play and now UConn has lost two semifinals in a row.

"It's a different feeling than last year," said Samuelson. "We worked so hard to get back into this situation and were ready to make the most of it. Last year, my very first loss was college basketball. It's a different kind of disappointment this year. I think we had a better game this year. Last year, I felt like we were playing, we probably deserved to lose this game. This year, I felt like we had played the whole game.

Samuelson scored 16 points and seven rebounds on Friday, with Fellow Junior Napheesa Collier scoring 24 and 5. Williams finished their UConn careers with 12 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, while Amme finished with 10 points and five rebounds Steal and layup were tied, who tied the 79-79 game at the end of the regulation.

[19659008] And Azura Stevens, the 6-foot-6-post player who joined Duke and played her first season with the Huskies this year, scored 19 points and eight rebounds in her first Final Four.

The huskies surpassed Notre Dame 41-38. But UConn had 17 turnovers that turned Notre Dame into 21 points, and that hurt the Huskies. According to Her Hoop Stats, the Huskies turnover rate for the 97 games was 17.6 percent on Friday, up from 14.4 percent for the season. In a game that was so close, that made a difference.

The defense Samuelson pointed out was perhaps the biggest culprit in the loss. She said the game compared to UConn's 80-71 comeback victory over the Irish in December because of the way Notre Dame never resigned.

"Both games, they really came up to us and they really showed a lot of weaknesses better than any other team has," said Samuelson. "And personally, I could have helped my teammates in the defense much better, and throughout the game I had to be someone they would have relied on."

Nurse and Williams were 148-3 in their careers with two NCAA titles. Fantastic careers by any standard except for the almost impossible UConn is captured on. Both seniors struggled with their emotions when they were asked to bring their time to UConn into perspective after losing Friday. But both will be selected in the upcoming WNBA draft and join so many other successful former Huskies at Pros.

"They had amazing careers and won two championships," Stevens said. "They are really great players."

When asked if she could at least be proud of how she played, Stevens stood against it.

"Yes, but we did not win," she said. "So it's not really important."


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